The founder of Properazzi.com is Yannick Laclau, 33, a French-Brazilian who was brought up in the United States. This globe-trotting businessman launched Properazzi.com, the first pan-European virtual estate agent, from Barcelona last March. The idea? To bring all the available properties of the Old World together to one single multilingual search engine – for buying as well as selling.
Why did you choose the Catalan capital to set up Properazzi.com?
I was looking for a city that wasn’t as expensive as London, while remaining cosmopolitan and linked to the property market. In Spain, property is the true driving force behind the economy.
What is the atmosphere like at work?
We are a team of about twenty people of thirteen different nationalities. I wanted an international arrangement from the beginning because I believe in diversity. Here the working language is English, but we also understand French, Spanish, Finnish or Catalan.
On a day-to-day basis, can diversity sometimes become a barrier?
Not as yet - perhaps this is because we are a small company, not a large multinational one. We eat lunch and often go out for a drink together.
How did you come up with the idea of creating this online estate agent?
I used to design websites for estate agencies, and it was then that I thought of setting up a portal that brought them all together. However the agencies were reluctant to put their adverts up, due to a lack of time. So I came up with a script which could trawl their sites automatically in order to get hold of the relative information for each property: the price, description, the picture. After that it seemed logical to me to expand the system to serve all the European countries. Nowadays, someone who lives in Arizona can easily access the property market in New York. The same opportunity had to be offered to the people in Europe.
Why this particular name?
‘Properazzi’ is a combination of ‘property’ and ‘paparazzi’. The latter are often annoying but will do anything to get information about celebrities!
Is there an equivalent to your site in the United States?
There is a website called trulia.com. But our approach is very informal and based on personal experience. In Europe there are too many people who try to reproduce what is done elsewhere. It’s sad. We need to break new ground, bring about significance. We are capable of that. If not, we will remain followers.
Does the .com at the end of your site instead of a .eu signify an opening to the rest of the world?
We haven’t really considered a lot of things. A Properazzi development to cover the rest of the world is possible, but for now we are just concentrating on the European continent, from Portugal to Russia!
Even as far as Vladivostok then?
If there are properties available, why not?
Do certain markets have priority?
Yes – the Russians for example tend to buy abroad a lot, and the English too of course. And don’t forget Spain: since the property boom died down, many investors look to buy elsewhere: Berlin, Prague, Bulgaria and so on.
What is your target in terms of listed properties?
The site currently holds 1.8 million, but we want to provide total cover of the housing stock in Europe by the end of 2007. No-one knows the exact size of it, but we estimate it at 4-5 million properties.
What is your economic plan?
We want to bring the free-for-users and the paying models together. It is necessary for the website to be free of charge; it is the principle of search engines to have access to the most information possible. On the other hand, the agencies that hope to profit from their advertisements have to pay.
Who are your rivals?
On a national level, there are obviously many property search engines. To my knowledge, none of them are pan-European. You could say that our biggest rival is still Google.
So you want to be like David against Goliath?
In a small vertical sector like the property market, yes, in a way. What we would really like is for a Spaniard who is looking to buy in Prague, instead of going through Google without getting precise results, to be able to find direct information with a unique tool.
You were born in France and you are French, but you have never lived there. What is your view on the link between the presidential campaign and the internet?
Ségolène Royal is in virtual world ‘Second Life' and Sarkozy distributed podcasts. That’s quite encouraging. However the candidates didn’t really understand the internet. At 33, I am on the edge – I discovered the web at university, not at school. We will have to wait another 15 years for the people who have grown up with the internet to really incorporate it into their campaigns.